Counterfeit bills passed in Tahoe
South Shore businesses were duped this month to the tune of at least $4,000. The culprit displayed a familiar face – the likeness of Benjamin Franklin.
Counterfeit $100 bills surfaced at several businesses, and according to Secret Service agents, South Lake Tahoe is not alone.
“We are seeing the same notes around the U.S. These are high quality counterfeit bills being passed,” said Special Agent James Deal. “We first saw the bills about six months ago at (Bill’s Lake Tahoe Casino). A casino is the true test for a counterfeit bill. It lets the counterfeiter know how good the product really is.”
The new style $100 bills were designed with added security features to make counterfeiting more difficult, but Deal said many people don’t make use of the extras.
“We’ve found that people tend to look at two security features only. And it’s usually the watermark and security thread. These bills have both of those.”
The bills also defeat a counterfeit detection pen test, Deal said. Legal U.S. tender does not have wood fibers in the paper, most counterfeits do. When a detection pen is used on real money, the mark is barely visible, but on a fake it should highlight the wood fibers.
On Aug. 2, 10 of the clever fakes were discovered at Embassy Suites, at least one surfaced at a 7-Eleven convenience store, and one the following day at Bank of the West. South Lake Tahoe Police Cmdr. George Brown said the department is aware of at least $4,000 worth in counterfeit $100 bills.
“There could be more that we are unaware of because these bills are very good,” Brown added.
Deal said one security feature that the counterfeiters couldn’t duplicate was the color-shifting ink. On genuine Franklin notes, the number in the lower right corner on the front of the bill looks green when viewed straight on, but appears black when viewed at an angle.
“People should pay attention to their money. The best way to test a fake is to hold it up to a genuine bill,” Deal said.
Deal said attempts to retrieve the counterfeit bills have been hampered by the number of bills that have made it to bank collectors.
“Once they get into the bill collectors, it is hard to tell where the bill came from.”
Douglas County investigators said they believe they have had only one bill surface in the casino corridor this month.
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